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Lorenzo de‘ Medici and Savonarola, Martyrs for Florence

  • Richard C. Trexler (a1)


The authority of a Renaissance ruler seemed to depend in part on the divine protection afforded him during his life. The identity of his protectors was to some extent a matter of birth: the saint of the day on which he was born, the saint's name given him at baptism (often the same), and the saints of his homeland. As he matured, the ruler might choose as additional protectors saints he believed would help him, and their identity depended on the client's assessment of their efficacy. The protection of still other saints was thrust upon the ruler. In military victory, after successful business negotiations, and with the birth of an heir, an already powerful man found that some saints volunteered their services on their feast days; they were then gratefully incorporated into the client's pantheon.



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1 Machiavelli, N., History of Florence and of the Affairs of Italy (New York, 1960), bk. VII, p. 313 . I would like to thank my friends Gino Corti, Riccardo Fubini, Rab Hatfield, and Brenda Preyer for discussing this article with me.

2 On the Magi in Florence, see Hatfield, R., ‘The Compagnia de’ Magi,’ Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 33 (1970), 107161 ; Hofmann, H., Die Heiligen Drei Konige (Bonn, 1975); Davisson, D., ‘The Iconography of the S. Trinita Sacristy, 1418-1435,’ Art Bulletin, 57 (1975), 315334 , and two forthcoming articles by the present author: ‘Two Captains and Three Kings. New Light on the Medici Chapel’ (with Mary E. Lewis), Art Quarterly, n.s. 2 (1979); ‘The Magi Enter Florence. The Ubriachi of Florence and Venice,’ Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History, n.s. 1 (1978).

3 Rochon, A., La jeunesse de Laurent de Médicis (1448-1478) (Paris, 1963), p. 59 (Lorenzo's ricordanza). The document of January 6 printed below thus refers to Lorenzo, even if it does not name him.

4 When Lorenzo became a father in 1470 he waited three months to baptise his daughter because of diplomatic negotiations over who would be godfather; Rochon, Jeunesse, p. 231, n. 121. A century later the family waited four months for dignitaries to arrive; Borsook, E., ‘Art and Politics at the Medici Court, II: The Baptism of Filippo de’ Medici in 1577,’ Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Instituts in Florenz, 13 (1967), 94fF.

5 Hatfield, ‘Compagnia,’ 134ff.

6 Manni, D.-M., Istorica notizia dell'origine, e del significato delle Befane (Lucca, 1776).

7 For the diocesan law of 1517 limiting the number of godparents, and the participation of clerks as such, see my Synodal Law in Florence and Fiesole, 1306-1518 (Vatican City, 1971), pp. 67fF.; C. Klapisch studies how one Florentine father chose his compari: ‘Parenti, amici e vicini: il territorio urbano d'una famiglia mercantile nel XV. secolo,’ Quaderni Storici, 33 (1976), 953-982. For other Medici godparents, see Galuzzi, R., Istoria del Granducato di Toscana sotto ilgovemo delta casa Medici I (Livorno, 1781), 40 .

8 Renato Pazzi, for example, was the godson of René of Anjou, Ferdinando Pandolfini of Ferrante of Naples; Bistici, Vespasiano da, Vite di uomini illustri del secolo XV (Florence, 1938), pp. 399, 342. Federigo's contemporary tenure as Florentine condottiere is referred to in ibid., pp. 84ff., and in Franceschini, G., Figure del rinascimento urbinate (Urbino, 1959), pp. 56ff.

9 For example, Goro Dati when he was Standard Bearer of a gonfalone in 1411; Il libro segreto di Gregorio Dati, ed. C. Gargiolli (Bologna, 1869), p. 76, andjacopo Salviati when a Buonuomo in 1399; Cronica o memorie dijacopo Salviati, in Delizie degli eruditi toscani, ed. I. da San Luigi, XVIII (Florence, 1784), 187.

10 On the accoppiatori, see Rubinstein, N., The Government of Florence under the Medici (1434 to 1494) (Oxford, 1966), pp. 33ff.

11 Again, it was an old practice for certain types of renters to pay tribute (cens) to owners on days symbolically important to the latter. “What is new at this time is incorporated villages and towns, giving gifts not tribute. An example of gifts brought to Lorenzo's wedding in 1469 by ‘the principal towns, Pisa, Arezzo, and other communes, villages, and casdes,’ is in Ross, J., Lives of the Early Medici as told in their Correspondence (London, 1910), p. 129 .

12 On the humanists, Chastel, A., Art et Humanisme au temps de Laurent le Magnifique (Paris, 1959), p. 246, n. 4ff. The Magi sermons are excerpted in Hatfield, ‘Compagnia,’ 128-135. Lorenzo's festive Compagnia della Stella, important later in his life, will be studied in my article in process, ‘The Festive Force. Theatre, Neighborhood, and Potenze in Renaissance Florence.’

13 The latter plot is mentioned by Rinuccini, Alamanno in Ricordi storici di Filippo di Cino Rinuccini dal 1282 al 1460, colla continuazione di Alamanno e Neri suoi figli fino al 1506, ed. G. Aiazzi (Florence, 1840), cxxxiv-cxxxv.

14 ‘Et chominciò detto Lorenzo addire: Che per salvatione dello stato avea messo un fratello, ellui presso che la vita…'; Cambi, G., Istorie di G.C. cittadino fiorentino, in Delizie XXI (Florence, 1785), 66. A medal of Lorenzo commemorating his survival of the conspiracy calls him SALUS PUBLICUS; Hatfield, R., Botticelli's Uffizi ‘Adoration.'A Study in Pictorial Content (Princeton, 1976), plate 35.

15 Those churches were San Marco, the Carmine, and San Lorenzo, all of which are mentioned in the formal notarial acts of Jacopo Migliorelli, notary of the Calimala: Archivio di Stato, Firenze (ASF), notarile antecosiminiano, M 565 (1481-84), fols. 33-34 (May 6), and fols. 79-80 (November 7), (hereafter referred to as ‘Migliorelli’). I have chosen to print in Appendix II the summary of these notarizations made by the sacristan of San Lorenzo because it is succinct, contains information the notarizations do not, and because it is a correct summary as far as the material for this article is concerned.

16 ‘Ac etiam in ecclesia Sancti Marci de Florentia quolibet anno unum aliud offitium pro anima dicti Petri patris dicti Laurentii in quo expendatur per dictos consules libras vigintiquinque f.p.'; ibid., fol. 33v.

17 Antonino in his moral theology ridiculed the notion that St. Lawrence only rescued souls from purgatory on Wednesdays, showing that the day was popular before this document; Cianfogni, P. N., Memorie istoriche dell'Ambrosiana R. basilica di S. Lorenzo (Florence, 1704), pp. 158ff. Piero di Cosimo's office in San Lorenzo, also paid by the Calimala but not part of this set of Lorenzan institutions, was also on a Wednesday, in December; Biblioteca Laurenziana, Archiuio di San Lorenzo (ASL), provisional numeration 19333. fol. 24v; all subsequent references to this archive's filze are provisional. Lorenzo's son, Pope Leo X, gave a plenary indulgence to those hearing Mass, etc., in San Lorenzo on Wednesdays, ‘qua in platea dicte ecclesie nundine mercatum nuncupate ex antiqua consuetudine et institutione celebrantur’; ibid., 338 (parchment of Aug. 2, 1514).

18 ‘Ac etiam quolibet anno in ecclesia Sancte Marie del Carmino unum omtium die festivitatis M/X martirum in quo expendatur libras duodecim f. p.’; Migliorelli, fol. 34. On these saints, see Kötting, B., ‘Zehntausend Martyrer,’ Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche X (1965), c. 1321.

19 Text in Appendix II. The notarial text is the same: ‘Ac etiam quolibet anno faciant et fieri faciant in dicta ecclesia Sancti Laurentii unum festum pro nativitate died Laurentii, et secuta morte ipsius Laurentii unum omtium sive annuale in quo expendatur per dictos consules libras quadraginta f. p.’; Migliorelli, fol. 33v.

20 The feast was held on Jan. 2, 1483 even before the Calimala had made any payments: ‘A dì 2 di gennaio 1482 dicta festa solennemente etc., se primmo di nostro [danaro], di loro volunta’; ASL, 19301, fol. 53v, also ibid., 19384, fol. 156. By Jan. 2, 1484 payment had been regularized; ibid., 19302, fol. 22-22v. In 1493 and 1494, the first two years after Lorenzo's death, the change was made from a festa to an uffizio; ibid., 19331, fols. 18v, 55; ibid., 19332, fols. 23v, 59v. But when in mid-1494 the accounts-due ledger was made for the coming fiscal year, the office was still scheduled for Jan. 2 next; ibid., 19333, fol. 24v. Yet the service was not performed then, but on Apr. 8,1495; ibid., fol. 64v. This suggests that Lorenzo had planned to have his anniversary office said not each year after his death (Apr. 8, 1492), as was customary, but on the octave of Stephen, Lorenzo's ‘birthday,’ a rare procedure if true. It also suggests that political events may have changed this plan, since the Medici were expelled from Florence (Nov. 9, 1494), between the time the accounts-due ledger was drawn up and the time the effectuation of the office was registered. The accounts-due ledger including Jan. 1496 continued the earlier practice: ‘Et de dare £ 40 per ufficio di Lorenzo di Piero de’ Medici, fassi l'ottava di Sancto Stefano.’ But the latter phrase was then crossed out, and ‘intorno a dì 9 d'Aprile per l'anima sua ogn'anno in perpetuo’ entered; ibid., 19334, fol. 26v, and fols. 66v-67 for effectuation of the office. The Oblighi book from which Appendix II is drawn shows the Jan. 2 crossed out by a later hand, and: ‘Posto el secondo mercoledi d'Aprile’ entered in the margin, and as late as 1543 it was thus celebrated; ibid., 3649, a. 1542-1543, April. But in an Oblighi book written in 1577, Lorenzo's service was being said on the first Wednesday of April; ibid., 2051.

21 The day seems to have been celebrated like a birthday. See Ficino's letter expressing regret he could not be present for the celebration infra’ Medici, when the gods Apollo, Venus, Mercury etc. had been present; Marcel, R., Marsile Ficin (1433-1499) (Paris, 1958), p. 445 . Birthday celebrations without associations to the days’ saints were still unusual in Florence. Poggio celebrated his fiftieth in 1430 because Salutati and the ancient Romans had shown the way; Gordan, P. W. G. (ed.), Two Renaissance Book Hunters. The Letters of Poggius Bracciolini to Nicolaus de Niccolis (New York, 1974), pp. 161 ff.

22 Migliorelli, f. 33v. Lorenzo presaged his descendants who, like any royal family, held public celebrations of significant events in their individual lives. For the annual celebrations in Florence of the days on which the news had reached Florence of the elections of Leo X and Clement VII, celebrations which continued after their deaths, see ASL, 19399, fols. 25v, 26v.

23 On Caspar or Melchior's birthday, see Hatfield, ‘Compagnia,’ 137.

24 Lorenzo thus united in his person two advocates already represented together in San Lorenzo by Donatello (Old Sacristy).

25 See below, n. 31.

26 Howard Saalman believes that Lorenzo started his own burial chapel, the subsequent New Sacristy, in 1491; “Early Italian Architecture,” The Burlington Magazine, 120 (January, 1978), 31. Evidence of such building activity is in ASL, 19385, inside front cover and passim, esp. fol. 41-41v. Whether the chaplaincy ‘della vergine Maria’ established but not dowered by Lorenzo's son Giovanni (Leo X) shortly after his father's death is related to Lorenzo's building, or to the later New Sacristy, remains to be seen; ibid., 19333, fol. 30v (1494-1495); ibid., 19334, fol. 32v (1495-1496).

27 In starting his book of ricordanze on March 25, 1457, for example, Bernardo di Stoldo di Luca di Piero Rinieri inserted among his invocations the name ‘de’ beati e santi magi’; ASF, Conventi Religiosi Soppresse, 95, 212, f. Ir. My thanks to Christiane Klapisch for passing this on to me.

28 Savonarola played one of the Kings in a liturgical drama in San Marco; Ginori Conti, P. (ed. attrib.), La vita del beato Jeronimo Savonarola (Florence, 1937), p. 117 .

29 Appendix III.

30 Salvini, S., Catalogo cronologico de’ canonici della Mesa metropolitana fiorentina (Florence, 1782), p. 59 .

31 On the crucifixion, the sermon begins: Ecce salvator noster. ‘Patrons’ of the Company, the Magi saw the crucifixion prefigured in the Star. Now the crucifixion has come to pass and the brothers of the Company, brought together by ‘our Star,’ use it as ‘our captain’ and ‘our flag.’ Being ‘creatures’ of the Crucified, they kiss his figure; excerpted in Hatfield. ‘Compagnia,’ 157ff. Compare this imagery of Christian origin to that used by humanists characterizing Cosimo; Brown, A., ‘The Humanist Portrait of Cosimo de’ Medici, Pater Patriae,’ Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 24 (1961), 186221 .

32 The canon Jacopo Manelli established a cult to St. Jerome in these same years; Landucci, Luca, Diario fiorentino dal 1450 al 1516 (Florence, 1969), p. 51 .

33 Vespucci gives only vague indications when he started these devotions; see texts below. Since Lorenzo probably established the office of the Ten Thousand Martyrs in the Carmine for his mother's soul—in the notarial document it follows two others of hers— it might be suggested that Vespucci, made a canon in the same year 1482, either influ enced Lucrezia, or was influenced by an institution she had fostered. On the cult of the Eleven Thousand Virgins, see V. Hopmann, ‘Ursula,’ in Lexikonjur Theologie und Kirche X, cc. 574ff.

34 Sanesi, E., Vicari e canonici fiorentini e il ‘Caso Savonarola’ (Florence, 1932), pp. 12ff. Vespucci's novitiate may be checked in the Liber vestitionum of the Convento di San Marco, Firenze, at the date June 5,1497. His profession is recorded along with a personal characterization in Biblioteca Laurenziana, Firenze, Biblioteca S. Marco, 370 (Chronica conventi Sancti Marci de Florentia), fol. 98. He died in 1514.

35 Giovan Francesco Pico della Mirandola spoke of Vespucci's association with the friar; cited in Weinstein, D., Savonarola and Florence (Princeton, 1970), p. 243 , n. 46. His will is in ASF, not. antecos., G 593, fols. 346-349, a typed copy of which was generously made available to me by Rab Hatfield.

36 This was to happen if the male side of his brothers’ descent died out; ibid., fol. 347v.

37 Text in Appendix III.

38 On the convictions of Savonarola's followers after his death, see Weinstein, Savonarola, pp. 317ff.

39 Using one cult for other, covert, purposes was not unusual; the practice will be examined in a book on formal behavior I am preparing.

page 306 note 1 1449 in the standard calendar.

page 306 note 2 St. Antoninus Pierozzi, O.P., archbishop 1446-1459.

page 306 note 3 Benedetto di Matteo Schiattesi.

page 306 note 4 Federigo da Montefeltro and Ottaviano degli Ubaldini da Urbino, kin to Federigo.

page 306 note 5 Of the Ugolini family.

page 306 note 6 Morelli was one of the priors for Jan.-Feb. 1449.

page 306 note 7 The godmother.

page 307 note 1 Tra apichare i torchietti dare a mano’ is inserted into the text.

page 307 note 2 ‘In quel dì che dichiarirà el detto Lorenzo’ has been crossed through, and ‘el primo mercoledì dopo la festa di San Marco’ entered.

page 307 note 3 From ‘Ancora’ through ‘per e predetti consuli’ has been crossed out, without substitution.

page 307 note 4 In text: ‘infrascritte.’

page 308 note 5 ASF, not. antecos., M 565 (1481-84), fols. 33-34.

Lorenzo de‘ Medici and Savonarola, Martyrs for Florence

  • Richard C. Trexler (a1)


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